Orioles rankled by Brian Matusz's ejection for using a foreign substance

Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz was ejected Saturday night for having a foreign substance on his forearm.

Hours after "Rosingate" unfolded at Marlins Park in the 12th inning Saturday night, the Orioles were still scratching their collective heads as to what lefty reliever Brian Matusz did so differently that led to his ejection.

The facts are simple enough: Matusz appeared to have a combination of rosin and sunscreen on his right, non-throwing arm that he touched several times while pitching in the 12th inning. New Miami Marlins manager Dan Jennings asked the umpires to check it out and crew chief Paul Emmel touched Matusz's arm, declared it sticky and ejected the reliever.

The Marlins won, 1-0, in the 13th against reliever T.J. McFarland, who was forced to warm up on the mound in surprise relief of Matusz in the 12th.

What rankled the Orioles is that they don't believe Matusz's intent was to doctor the baseball — just to get a better grip on it —— and that it's not an unusual practice in the big leagues. A rosin bag, after all, is on the back of every major league mound.

"Why is the rosin on the field? Why is it there?" Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's a deeper issue than that. You've all heard me talk about the crux of the problem. Same reason hitters have pine tar. We all understand the crux of the problem is gripping the ball; it's not trying to [doctor the ball]."

Showalter has been a big proponent for years of instituting tackier baseballs — similar to the ones used in Japan, for instance — for safety reasons. He believes there's no consistency to how baseballs in the major leagues are prepared for use, from ballpark to ballpark and even for a visiting team and a home team.

Also, calling for a review of Matusz's arm, as Jennings did, could be done for various pitchers throughout the majors, Showalter said. It's not exclusive to Matusz or Milwaukee's Will Smith, who was ejected last Thursday and suspended eight games Friday for having a rosin/sunscreen combo on his non-throwing arm.

"Of course not. Let's don't kid ourselves, all right?" Showalter said. "A lot of time, people who do these things haven't had to stand on a mound in front of 30,000 people trying to grip a ball. I understand it's a rule. I got it."

Matusz did not talk publicly Saturday or Sunday about the ejection. He walked off the mound Saturday night without arguing and is obviously waiting for discipline to be handed down before stating his case.

Because Major League Baseball offices were closed Sunday, no announcement regarding Matusz will be made until at least Monday, although the Memorial Day holiday may push any action from the commissioner's office until Tuesday. Matusz inevitably will appeal a suspension and fine — the way Smith has — and would be able to play until a judgment is rendered following a hearing.

Most of the Orioles remained mute on the subject Sunday, though they were playfully ribbing Matusz for being a baseball outlaw and privately stewing that rosin and sunscreen could be considered "foreign substances" since both are readily available in ballparks.

The most outspoken member of the team's bullpen, Tommy Hunter, called the rule "kind of childish, kind of silly."

"But if it's a rule, it's a rule. If it's sticky, it's sticky," Hunter said. "They have to enforce it, so you can't really call fault on the umpires or anything. It's kind of a petty thing because if you ask any hitter they would rather us have control of a baseball or be able to hold onto it and not let it slip out of your hand — if that's what you are using sticky stuff for."

Hunter admits that he will use the sweat off his arms at times to create a stickier baseball for grip purposes. But he doesn't use anything else.

"I walk out there and throw it, dude. I throw 97 [mph], come on," he said smiling.

Showalter said if there is a competitive advantage to getting an enhanced grip it's that it allows pitchers to throw their offerings, specifically breaking balls, more crisply. But he's willing to live with that trade off.

"I want guys to be able to grip the baseball against our hitters, to an extent," Showalter said.

The way he manages — and whether he'd be more apt to ask for an umpire's inquiry now that it has happened against him — won't change, Showalter said.

He was asked whether he considered offering a counter-protest Saturday regarding the delivery of Marlins' reliever Carter Capps, which is basically a jump step from the rubber. And Showalter said MLB has already ruled that the move is legal. Showalter said he often weighs the importance and effect of each argument.

"We know catchers have [pine tar] on the shin guards. You know that every [fielder has] got it on their glove," he said. "You try to figure out what the end game is, whether it's worth it."

Showalter said the biggest problem he had with Saturday's developments is that McFarland was not able to get loose in the bullpen, so he was forced to throw his warm-up pitches on the mound while the Marlins watched.

"It shouldn't happen. When does a club get to watch a pitcher warm up the whole time and throw 30, 40 pitches? That's a competitive imbalance," Showalter said. "And they say it's because there's got to be some action on the field. At that time, everybody's going to the bathroom, concession stands anyway, right? Or watching the mascots or the dancers."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/danconnollysun

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